Study: U.S. Manufacturers Not B2B E-Commerce Ready

A nationwide poll of U.S. industrial firms shows that most are not engaging in extensive business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

The study echoed a recent report from Deloitte and Touche showing that 70 percent of U.S. retailers lack a cohesive e-commerce strategy.

NAM represents 14,000 members, including 10,000 small and mid-sized companies, and 350 member associations that serve manufacturers and employees in every industrial sector and all 50 states.

In addition to initiating studies on e-commerce, NAM is also partnering with Unibex Corporation to launch a B2B marketplace for its members.

All Talk

“No one questions the importance of B2B e-commerce, yet relatively few manufacturers are participating in it,” said NAM president Jerry Jasinowski. “The new NAM survey shows a wide disparity between the recognition by business that the Internet is a vital new form of commerce and the actual application of that knowledge by American industry.”

Jasinowski said that the survey of 2,500 manufacturers, which was completed earlier this month, shows that 68 percent of those responding said their companies currently are not using electronic commerce as a forum for business transactions.

“The prospects for robust B2B Internet-based communication, distribution and service are extremely promising,” he observed. “But our survey shows that most manufacturing companies are still at a rather basic level when it comes to integrating the Web into their corporate business activities. While 80 percent claim they have a Web site, the vast majority offer only an information storefront. Furthermore, only 10 percent say that their current business process technology systems are fully automated.”

Less Than 15 Percent Use EDI, RFPs and Net Buying

In answer to the question, “How does your company currently use business electronic commerce,” only 17 percent said they used the Internet in place of EDI, and 13 percent said they use the Net for RFPs, RFQs or RFIs.

In addition, only 12 percent said they used the Net to buy intermediate materials, parts, sub-assemblies or shipping services, while 10 percent said they went online to arrange logistics. Finally, only seven percent said they bought raw materials online, while five percent said they had integrated their existing supply chain online.

The survey was begun in late January and completed on February 8th. Of those responding, 53 percent employ 500 or fewer persons, while 47 percent have 500 or more workers. Similarly, 28 percent have sales of $10 million (US$) or less, while another 28 percent have sales of $500 million or more annually.

“This survey is the first of the broad-based, nationwide surveys the NAM plans to conduct quarterly,” Jasinowski continued. “We’re committed to helping industry integrate e-commerce into their operations.”

Catalogs for Customer Service

While only a minority are engaged in e-commerce today, the study did find that 43 percent of the respondents have an online products catalog used for customer service. Of the 32 percent of manufacturers that use the Web for B2B e-commerce, more than half — 52 percent — say they want to use the Web to create new sales channels.

The study also found that “there is a lack of coherence in terms of who is delegated to be accountable for B2B e-commerce ventures. Thirty-five percent say their CEOs or senior management personnel are in charge. Twenty-two percent say information systems personnel have the responsibility, while five percent say the responsibility lies with their marketing and sales team — and 10 percent admit that no one is in charge of this important link to domestic and international markets.”

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